Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Home Again, Home Again

I've let Carol do all the blogging; too hard to blog with just a phone.
We're now home from our long trip. Since I was able to walk around cobblestone streets for 2-4 miles total most days, I'm optimistic about enjoying future travel.


Here we are at a beer garden in Munich on our last evening, where we had a lovely time with Victoria, Olaf and their two incredible monsters cute boys.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

In Salzburg

We never made it to Regensburg, because the water level in the Danube was too low for the boat to pass through.  So we docked in a small German town, and those who wished took a long bus ride to Regensburg for the walking tour there, and then another long bus ride to Salzburg.  We chose to go directly to Salzburg where we explored the town a bit, had a great lunch, took a nap, dined (it was a food-centered day) and slept in our beautiful hotel room at the Hotel Sacher.  You’ve heard of Sachertorte?  Well, at this hotel even the shampoo is chocolate flavored.  I did the 20 minute walk up to the Salzburg fortress on the hill.  


Both Larry and I have had enough of guided walking tours, so we decided today to skip it and went instead to the Maribell Gardens, scene from the Sound of Music.


We ate lunch at a beer garden, heard a lovely performance of the  Mozart G minor quintet at a jewel box of a concert hall, and will now attend our farewell reception and dinner.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cesky Krumlov and Passau

The cruise is rapidly coming to a close.  Very glad I went to Cesky Krumlov.  The weather was fine, the town charming, and I got a lot of shopping done.  The lunch was really good, caprese, soup, duck with dumplings and cabbage, panna cotta.  The drive through the Austrian and Czech countryside was lovely too.  We skipped the castle tour and had a relaxing morning on our own.  Interesting dinner back on the ship with a political conversation.  Now that the tour is coming closer to its end people are more willing to share controversial views.

This morning we were in Passau, and soon the boat will be leaving (actually I notice we have already left) for Regensburg.  I am trying to organize our stuff for tomorrow morning, when we will travel by bus to Salzburg.  So it’s a pretty lazy afternoon ahead of us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

In Linz

I have missed another day of blog entries.  I’m suffering from a cold, so that’s my excuse.  On Monday, we were still in Vienna, and took a bus ride to an area of the region I hadn’t seen before, the Vienna Woods, on the outskirts of the city.  The Viennese can visit these wooded hills by public transport, and they’re covered with hiking trails.  We went to the hunting lodge where a young Habsburg prince and his lover committed suicide (macabre!) in a gorgeous setting, the abbey of Heilingkreuz (very beautiful Cloisters and lovely stained glass) and the spa town of Baden (totally delightful).
Resting in the town of Baden

Larry took the afternoon off, while I went for a lightning tour of the Kunsthistorisches Museum with an excellent guide.

A famous salt and pepper shaker

I enjoyed this tour because the guide was efficient and didn’t ramble.  She showed us the highlights and directed us around the enormous museum with energy.

A Vermeer, one of the most famous works in the museum.

The boat cruised away from Vienna and down the Danube through the beautiful valley of the Wachau, which I watched from the deck Tuesday morning. The boat docked at Melk where we went on a tedious guided tour of the Abbey.  Unfortunately, my cold was getting worse and the rain was pouring down by the time we visited a winery to sample the Gruner Veltliner white wines of this region.  We skipped dinner and I slept a long time last night.  

I’m feeling better this morning but I’m not sure I want to participate on the all day excursion to Cesky Krumlov (about a two hour bus ride from here).  It’s raining so hard, and my cold is still there.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Catching Up

Today is our second day in Vienna.  Two days ago, we visited Bratislava on a busy Saturday afternoon.  Bratislava was lively and fun, with street performers and events and groups of rowdy young men at bachelor parties.  Our little walking tour concluded with a string quartet performance in a little church.  The young Slovakian guys played early Mozart and the Dvorak “American” quartet.  The acoustics were typical of a church, that is to say, a little muddy, but the performance was excellent.  I especially enjoyed the lento movement from the Dvorak.  I don’t know much about the quartet, but they were great, and probably enjoy playing for the visitors passing through on the riverboats.  The historic downtown of Bratislava is right on the Danube.  We just walked into town.

Yesterday, we had a little bus ride into Vienna, as Vienna itself is on a canal of the Danube, not the Danube proper.   Our bus gave us a ride around the Ringstrasse, and then we had a walking tour of the Imperial Crypt where many, many Habsburgs are buried in elaborate coffins. Kind of gloomy.  Larry and I then peeled off from the walking group, and went on a nostalgia  tour of Vienna.   I’ve been in Vienna several times, and have my favorites, Figlmuller for Wienershnitzel, and Demel for Viennese pastries.  We ambled around, I did some shopping, and then we caught the shuttle back to the boat.  

The unexpected treat for the evening was a reception at the home of the U.S. Ambassador to Austria (newly appointed by Mr. Trump).  His wife is the daughter of one of our shipmates, hence the invitation.  His name is Trevor Traina (I think) and he is a San Francisco venture capitalist billionaire, about 50 years old.  The Ambassador’s residence is in the Bauhaus style, immense, newly decorated by the Ambassador and his wife, with painted walls, new furniture, and his collection of photographs (giant photographs) all over.  We had wine and beautiful snacks.  He talked a bit about current Austrian politics (they have a 31 year old Chancellor here in Austria, the youngest head of state anywhere.  Ambassador Traina called him a kind of even younger Justin Trudeau, Gavin Newsome type.  So now I can say I have shaken the hand of the hand that shook the hand of Donald Trump.  Now I must go wash my hands.

Friday, July 6, 2018

On the Royal Crown

I was so tired last night I couldn’t do an entry in my travel blog.  We spent the day touring Budapest, visiting Castle Hill on the Buda side of Budapest, and then returning to Pest to have lunch in a big old brewery restaurant, then a long visit to the Synagogue.  Then we finally boarded the Royal Crown.  The boat is quite beautiful, our room is small but full of nooks and crannies where our stuff can be stashed.  We had negronis at the bar (but alas, the bar is not open).  One must pay for alcohol consumed at other than meal times.  Oh I forgot, we started the day with a history lecture from Scott Pearson, the Stanford historian about the Travails of the Hungarians, from the early centuries to 1918.  And yes, travails they were, battles lost (mostly) sometimes won, invasions to spare, Ottomans, Turks, Mongols, Nazis, Communists...Scott promised to send us all a detailed document of all the dates and information, so we wouldn’t have to try too hard to remember it all.  It’s funny, all the Hungarian tour guides seem to have studied out of the same book, they all make a big point of telling us that the Rubik cube was invented by a Hungarian, and that Harry Houdini was Hungarian.  The guide on the tour today said that Orban the recently reelected prime minister (who has a bad reputation in my book) was at least somewhat better than all the other candidates, and was reelected on the promise of saving the Hungarians from the immigrants, apparently that did the trick.  Hungary has very low salaries in comparison to other European countries, but a cost of living that is high, so the country is losing people who leave for a better standard of living in Austria, Germany or the UK.

The boat pushed away from the Budapest dock after dinner, and we went up on the panorama deck to watch the illuminated city as we floated past.  That was really spectacular.  All of those immense fairy tale buildings on both sides of the Danube.  The parliament building, the Mathias church, the Royal palace, the hotels (including our spectacular Gresham Palace hotel), also the bridges.  What a gorgeous view we had from the water, everything was golden including flocks of birds in the night sky above the palaces.

This morning the boat docked upstream on the Danube near the Hungarian town of Kalocsa, paprika capital of the world.  We had an interesting smorgasbord of a morning, visiting a Paprika Museum, watching folk dancing and embroidery at a folk arts center, and culminating in an amazing display of Hungarian horsemanship.  We have come back to the ship, and are now resting in our little rooms.  There will be lectures at 4 on music from the music professor and at 5:30 from the history professor.  We are now cruising on the Danube, heading towards Bratislava, capital of Slovakia.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Stanford Tour Begins

We started the day slowly, sleeping late.  Larry decided to take it easy in the morning, but I went out for a walk in Budapest, following the Danube to the Parliament Buildings and then making my way back through city streets to the Basilica.  I detoured to the opera house, which unfortunately is covered with scaffolding.  Budapest is full of tourists, big groups, families, couples, all taking pictures and posing everywhere you go.  It wasn’t always like this, was it?  The constant picture-taking with cameras of all sorts, selfies, selfie sticks.  So many people seem to be aspiring models for  the cover of a fashion magazine.  It’s got to be the Facebook or Instagram effect.

Budapest is magnificent though.  When I got back to the hotel, I persuaded Larry to come out with me to see the Parliament Buildings and we shared a lunch on the patio of a little cafe near there.  When we got back, we were able to check in with the Stanford tour guides, and collect our luggage tags and audio devices (the little speakers that allow you to hear the tour guide even when she’s far away).  We left on a couple of buses for a tour of the Pest part of the city (tomorrow we will tour the Buda part).  The highlight was a trip to the big Budapest market, a maze of shops selling all sorts of Hungarian products and produce.


It’s really huge.

We drove past the beautiful bridges.  Here’s one:



We even had a little tasting of Hungarian goodies with little glasses of brandies and wine.
We were happy.  (Talking about selfies, we’re no better than the rest of them...)


After the excursion, there was a reception with a surprise:  a Hungarian brass band playing the Star Spangled Banner and other favorites.  Stanford trips are always full of surprises...but, a brass band?  The reception was followed by an elaborate dinner, one of those interminable Stanford dinners.  How dare I complain?  It’s just that there are too many courses and too much time between every course.

I met the musicologist from Stanford, Stephen Hinton (I think that’s right).  He has played with Condoleeza Rice and Paul Brest, former dean of the Stanford Law School.   I played quartets with him and Ron Joseph years and years ago.  He’s going to give us lectures about the string quartets we’re going to hear, but I kind o doubt that they will be as interesting as David Clampitt’s lectures at the MSQ Seattle workshop.  We’ll see!  There is also a historian on the trip, who will lecture about the Habsburgx.

Tomorrow, it’s Buda, and then embarking on the Royal Crown.